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1st permaculture project: herb spiral

 
                                        
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Hi! I've just finished reading Gaia's Garden, and although there are many other books I'd like to read on the subject of permaculture, I don't want to get caught in the trap of reading about it and never doing it. So I'm going to get my hands dirty and build an herb spiral, which seems to me like a good beginner project. I have a few questions:

- In Gaia's Garden, Hemenway suggests building a mound and then placing rocks ON the mound in a spiral from bottom to top. But every youtube vid I've seen on herb spirals had the stones constructed FIRST in a spiral structure, then filled with soil. I have to admit this seems more logical to me than Hemenway's version of the spiral. It seems likely that the stones will shift or sink in the soil, since they're just sitting on top of it. How do you like to build your herb spirals?

- What procedures do you follow before building the herb spiral? Do you sheet mulch under the mound? Do you clear the grass? Do you place rocks under the soil?

- Do you use only soil for the herb spiral or do you add compost, mulch, or anything else?

- Have any of you incorporated a pond at the bottom of the spiral? Do you use a liner/basin? Do you line it with rocks/pebbles/soil? What plants have you included in it?

Thanks for your time! This seems like a very supportive and informative group and I'm looking forward to being an experienced permaculturist like many here.
 
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Check my post on it, on my blog.

http://livingwind.tumblr.com/post/8464831456/herb-spiral-diagram

Diagram/schematic to give you a better mental picture.

I'd put wood chips around the circumference of it. I'd do stones, then dirt. I've done several for landscape clients. My friend and I have gotten really good at hardscapes.The base can be a variety of materials. I've used pea gravel before...

There are so many ways to approach it. Sometimes instead of an erb spiral, I Like something along these lines.


Enjoy -
 
                            
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Hey,
I built an herb spiral this past spring. There was not much space available, so it is rather small. I used whatever was available on site. Check out a few images on my blog: http://ecovitka.blogspot.com/2011/06/herb-spiral-fuszer-spiral.html

I didn't build a pond (again because of space issues), but I will build one on my next spiral (this one is not mine, but was a birthday present for my mother in law). I didn't mulch the bottom with cardboard. I actually built the spiral on top of  the base of a tree that was cut down years ago. Dug a trench around the tree, filled it with organic materials, and used the dug out soil to build a soil layer on the surface of the spiral. I built the spiral frame first (I used all kinds of materials that I found around the garden). Then I filled it with grass clippings, compost, decomposed saw dust in layers and topped it with a layer of soil.

Everything grew nicely. Attached a more recent image of the herb spiral.
Good luck!

herb-spiral-at-mami.jpg
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master pollinator
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I like that little herb spiral - it's cute! 
 
                                        
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Thank you both for the pictures! The cross section was very useful. I do like the idea of having something for the soil to sit on, whether it's rocks, mulch, or other materials. I also would feel more comfortable making the spiral frame and then filling it, like you mentioned; it seems like it would be more stable.
 
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Location: Castlegar, B.C. Zone 6a-6b
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Here is a link to the herb spiral my wife and I made last summer. It turned out well but we did make a few mistakes. For the northern hemisphere your supposed to make the spiral in the other direction. I also would have made it higher. The biggest mistake was putting mint in the herb spiral not contained. Now the whole herb spiral has mint everywhere in only its second year. So this fall we are going to take it down, remove the mint and re-build it come spring.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.496549965608.316031.747135608&l=42741b73a5&type=1
 
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For most of us Yanks, when we think of herbs, we tend to think of the classic Mediterranean herbs.  Those Mediterranean herbs are native to growing on rocky hillsides with no summer rains.  Most are truly Mediterranean climate weeds that will thrive with poor soils, and no care.

About the only one that cannot be called a weed is Italian oregano, which is a hybrid that cannot be grown from seed.
 
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John Polk wrote:
For most of us Yanks, when we think of herbs, we tend to think of the classic Mediterranean herbs.  Those Mediterranean herbs are native to growing on rocky hillsides with no summer rains.  Most are truly Mediterranean climate weeds that will thrive with poor soils, and no care.



which is why I miss the point of a herb spiral, unless it is for herbs which require more care. Once established I never water my herbs - I think they would resent it, they are very self-reliant. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Most of my herbs have died in the drought with no care, including those which like dry conditions! 
 
Mother Tree
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ellenrr wrote:
which is why I miss the point of a herb spiral



I think the main 'point' of a herb spiral is as a teaching/learning tool.  If you build a mound, each position on that mound will have slightly different properties.  The top is going to be drier than the bottom.  The equator side is going to be sunnier than the poleward side.  The east side will have more sunlight in the morning while the west will have more evening light.  Then you select your plants and position them according to which conditions suit them best. 

But, like Ludi, I had problems.  I live in a genuine mediterranean climate, and the genuine mediterranean herbs which thrive so well in other people's herb spirals really don't like being stuck high and dry on a raised mound.  Lavender might love it at the top of someone else's herb spiral, but my lavender prefers to live at ground level where it copes perfectly well with the heat and drought. I haven't found *anything* that will live raised up very far.  So my sprial is now reduced to a heap of stones awaiting further inspiration...   
 
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I built this herb garden as below, out of rocks .
It was simple,  i lightly sheet mulched the site and built the rocks on top , in a spiral shape , then filled it with well drained compost, that i mixed with old potting soil. Note : i live in subtropical inviroment, with quite high seasonal rains, drainage is important. It took a while for the circle to settle , only regrets :planting mint in it, ah well. But there is rosemary, sage, thmye lavendar, spearmint, mint and strawberries, this spiral has been in the garden for 5 years now and is ready for some attention.
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kane Abbott
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here it is a few years latter
kanes-canon-2001020011-085.JPG
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John Polk
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I think a good part of the logic behind an herb spiral is to raise them above ground level.  Most of the Mediterranean herbs are accustomed to dry, rocky soils.  They do not like wet feet, and by raising them, you eliminate that problem in areas with summer rains.
 
ellen rosner
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John Polk wrote:
I think a good part of the logic behind an herb spiral is to raise them above ground level.  Most of the Mediterranean herbs are accustomed to dry, rocky soils.  They do not like wet feet, and by raising them, you eliminate that problem in areas with summer rains.



This is true, which is why I plant my lavender on a mound.

Not to belabor the point, but in my area herb spirals have become a fad like the hula hoop. Lots of people build herb spirals to show how 'with it' they are, then they are abandonned to weeds and the herbs die.

For 10 years I've been planting herbs, positioning them with an eye to sun, and soil, and wetness, and also where I feel like it,  and they all thrive.

that's why the herb spiral fad seems overblown to me. However each to his or her own, and I'm here to learn anyway.   
 
                                
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Burra Maluca wrote:

But, like Ludi, I had problems.  I live in a genuine mediterranean climate, and the genuine mediterranean herbs which thrive so well in other people's herb spirals really don't like being stuck high and dry on a raised mound.  Lavender might love it at the top of someone else's herb spiral, but my lavender prefers to live at ground level where it copes perfectly well with the heat and drought. I haven't found *anything* that will live raised up very far.  So my sprial is now reduced to a heap of stones awaiting further inspiration...   



Thank you for this!  I was just on the point of embarking on a couple herb spiral construction but like you, I have a very dry mediterranean climate  ( I am in the South-West of France).  I think I might still make a spiral but not raised I just love the look of them!

 
                                        
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Thank you everyone for your pictures and tips! A couple of you had mentioned mint taking over your spirals. Do you think planting it contained would make it more manageable? Or do you think it might be a good idea to leave mint out of the spiral and plant it somewhere else? Mint is one of my favorite herbs, so to be sure, I'll find a spot for it somewhere!
 
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mint is anyway a water loving plant. herb spiral is more for lavender, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and bunch of other annuals as well.
 
pollinator
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I built mine in July, about 10 days after moving into our new home.  I didn't use any mortar or anything, but just used the bricks that were stacked about 10 feet away, apparently left over from the original owners building the house. 

I followed the design in permaculture one, in terms of orientation toward the sun & positioning of the spiral.  I thought to myself, "how would paul improve this design" and I realized that adding hugelkultur a la the amazing Sepp would probably improve an already excellent functional design.  So I added a lot of wood after stacking the bricks.  Then I added compost, then I added potting soil.  I did have to buy the compost & potting soil (unfortunately) because at the time, we hadn't been here long enough to finish a hot-compost pile.

This particular area gets full sun, and while I am located in zone 7b I firmly believe based on my observations that we're actually in transition to zone 8.

Anyways, here's my hugelkultur herb spiral.  Again, apologies for buying the potting soil:



Uploaded with ImageShack.us
 
                                        
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Hi, I just wanted to post an update on my herb spiral project and ask a couple more questions. I've built the structure of the spiral, and I've obtained my herbs. The next step is to transfer the herbs into the spiral, but I'm a bit confused about where to place them. The two sources I've used as guides (Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" and "Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century" by Dick Strawbridge) have completely different placement instructions, and of course they would, since their recommendations are for two different continents.

So I'm assuming that the best way to go about placing the herbs in my garden is to use each herb's preferred conditions as a guide. But since I'm a novice, I'm not sure what those conditions are. Does anyone know a reliable source online or in book form that has information about herbs' sun and water requirements? I've searched for this information online myself of course, but the information I've found differs from site to site as well.
 
George Lee
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ones who enjoy hot/sun up top, lower ones who enjoy cooler/shade
 
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We sort of sheet mulched the kitchen garden by covering about 5000 ft2 with cardboard, and covering that with about 50 tractor loads of old horse poo. In the center of this we constructed the spiral. We piled old concrete chunks and whatnot to give it a base, covered that in horse poo, and built the planting spiral using pretty petrified wood and other cool stones from the nearby river. This picture is right after it was built. Once seeded, almost all of the herbs were super-productive. It does need to be rebuilt about every 4 years, and the poo replenished.
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pollinator
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In my opinion a herb spiral is the best way to grow mediterranean herbs in a wet and not-so-hot climate like here in the Netherlands.
So the first 'permaculture' garden activity I did was to make a herb spiral (and to start composting kitchen scraps a.a.). This was in the winter of 2014-2015. I described it somewhere else at Permies, probably at the regional forum in a topic about the Netherlands, or even in one of the topics I started myself ;)
This is how it started, before the herbs were planted:
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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And here it is last summer (so 2 years later):
 
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